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Yojimbo: Pleasure Principle

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    yippee

    Yojimbo Credits

    Cinematography by Kazuo Miyagawa

    Production Design by Yoshiro Muraki

    Music by Masaru Sato

    src=”http://www.youtube.com/v/JuAskRsP5K0&hl=en” type

    Yojimbo provides a world of pleasure in the confluence of artists at their peaks- Muraki’s set design is a bridge between cultures-Masaru Sato’s bumptious, quirky music provides the ballet’s score-Miyagawa frames and illuminates our stage and Kurosawa choreographs the ballet. Mifune walks into your mind and lodges there-unshakeable, perfect-a new icon.

    What are your favorite Yojimbo scenes and why are they your favorites?

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    yippee

    The link above is one of mine.

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    Vili Maunula

    Yippee: What are your favorite Yojimbo scenes and why are they your favorites?

    As I watched the film a few days ago for the first time in a couple of years, I found myself quite enjoying the scenes involving Inokichi, Ushitora’s rather slow and round brother.

    I usually don’t really find this type of characterisation funny or interesting, but I think that the actor (Daisuke Katoo) plays him brilliantly. He avoids the traditional traps of making us feel either sorry for him or embarrassed about him — Inokichi, at least to me, just feels surprisingly natural and human-like despite of his caricature-like nature. He is also a very likeable character, and while I probably wouldn’t hang out with him (not that I “hang out with” anyone, to be honest), I could definitely sit down for a pint of beer with him (not that I actually ever drink beer, but you get my meaning).

    Perhaps my favourite of all the Inokichi scenes is the one in which we see him first. He is told by the coffin maker about how many coffins he has made, and it takes Inokichi some time (and some fingers) to figure out whether it’s good news or bad news. In fact, on some level this scene also pretty much sums up the whole movie. 😉

    As for the best joke in the film, I must say that I laughed out loud when I realised what the name “Ushitora” means. “Cow-tiger”. And it’s not only the meaning of the name, but also the way it sounds (at least if you are familiar with Japanese). Maybe I am allowed to switch to internet-speak here, and just say: LOL.

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    Jeremy

    That’s the same stuff I was going to write Vili. Yojimbo is a rather funny movie, and Ushitora scenes are always perfect in him appearing very real, without ever coming off as a cheap comical gimmick. The way Ushitora look and acts, is near brilliant in itself.

    I too would say the coffin counting scene, is among the best in the comical scenes in the movie.

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    yippee

    You guys crack me up! Thanks for reminding me of Daisuke Kato’s Inokichi. I agree he’s awesome. Can you believe he is Shichiroji in Seven Samurai? But, I wouldn’t want to have a beer with him. He is likeable-until you see him slapping the man who lost his wife in gambling and as a cold-blooded killer hacking down the rival gang mom! Yikes. It scares me to think I might actually sit down for a beer with someone as funny and likeable and find out that they are actually crazy killers~!

    Other favorite funny bits:

    Mifune’s “take” when the dog-with-human-hand trots by.

    Mifune’s look of bewildered disgust when the “musicians” and “dancing girls” “perform”.

    Mifune’s look when he sizes up the group of criminals and gets a gander at the Giant.

    The Giant with his hammer seen from above in the aborted face-off battle. (When I saw this scene on the big screen the whole audience laughed, and my friend choked diet coke through her nose).

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    Jeremy

    …but killers make the best conservationist.

    I just realized I said Ushitora instead of Inokichi. I always have trouble getting all the names right, if they just were giving names like bob, tom, and jack, I would do much better.

    Speaking of Mifune bits, I love the one where he sticks out his tongue when he is overhearing the gang leaders plotting to kill him after he is done fighting for them.

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    Ben

    I’d say that overall else Yojimbo is an out and out comedy or an action comedy. When I recently saw the film at the Freer Gallery in DC with Nakadai in attendance (and I will still write up the event), the audience – 25% Japanese American 75% Anglo American – laughed big time. There were persistent chuckles and at least 15 big laughs. Particularly with Inokuchi but also with the absurdity or foreshadowed absurdity of it all; The flea bin machinations and scheming of Mifune, the yelping dog eagerness of the little town officer (name?). This was a very appreciative, educated audience who were laughing for all the right reasons.

    My favorite scene has to be when Mifune lures both gangs out and then watches up in the tower. What follows is a wonderful dance of fear. Funny and dark stuff.

    Also love the dust bowl climax. But it is the little moments that really tickle me. The wolfish sneers of Nakadai, the scratching of Mifune… the coffer’s coffin making.

    I’m in Vermont and don’t have internet more than once or twice a week so my presence here will be off and on. But I do want to talk and want to do the write for the whole event, though I find I need the web for reference, so hopefully I can get to the library and just sit and write for a few hours.

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    yippee

    Gosh Ben,

    Can’t wait for your report. Hope you don’t feel you have to do a book report. I’d just love to hear your perceptions.

    Jeremy, I love Mifune sticking out his tongue, too! It’s kinda saucy. And, the most, most pleasurable moment for me is, as the tension is building and the dust bowl and wind threaten to blow the images away…at the climactic faceoff, Mifune smiles and hunches his shoulders, picks up the pace of his walking. It was so serious until then, but suddenly you know Mifune knows he’s gonna win. And, this is just a girl thing-but he never looked handsomer than at that moment. It’s so strange that he faces off against Nakadai-who, in his kimono showing leg, has this hairless, finely-turned calf like a girl-his fringe of hair, muffler-such an Elvis/girly/evil guy!

    I mentioned above that I love Mifune’s look of bewildered disgust at the “dancing” girls. I was reading Teruyo Nogami’s “Waiting on the Weather” last night and she mentions that Shintaro Katsu took everyone out for steak dinner at a geisha joint (when he was slated to play the lead in “Kagemusha”) and when a geisha came in close to Kurosawa to pour the sake Kurosawa recoiled with a look of horror and everyone laughed. It made me think that when Kurosawa said to look for him in his films, he wasn’t kidding.

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    Jon Hooper

    I’ve been holding back because I still haven’t rewatched it, but the scenes that stick in my memory are certainly the one where Mifune makes short work of the thugs and cuts off an arm (I love the stiff and precise way he chops), of course the dog with a hand in its mouth. Also the first appearance of Nakadai (Even the winds welcome you is a line that comes to mind, though it may not be in the movie). But the climax may be best of all. It might be interesting to compare it, and indeed the other set pieces, with those in Leone’s version. And last of all – Mifune’s mannerisms are unforgettable, like the aforementioned sticking out of the tongue and the scratching (or is that more a feature of Sanjuro)?

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    cocoskyavitch

    Jon, it seems as if your memories are right on. Mifune scratches right up thorugh the neckline of his kimono in the beginning of the film, and yes, “Even the winds welcome you” is in the movie. Great scenes!

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    Jon Hooper

    Thanks, cocoskyavitch. Glad to see my memory isn’t too fuzzy. I’m looking forward to watching it again.

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    cocoskyavitch

    Hi Jon,

    You can do a You-tube compare and contrast and see Yojimbo and Clint doing the same scene: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t31HJGEbw2Q

    Of course, Kurosawa invents, and then it is copied, and that’s ok-it is copied cleverly, and there’s pleasure in seeing it. But, Kurosawa invents the icon, and that’s significant.

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    Vili Maunula

    Also the first appearance of Nakadai

    To be honest, I don’t actually really like Nakadai’s performance in Yojimbo. Every time I watch the film, I somehow find his character increasingly more alienated and alienating from the rest of the movie. Yes, it probably was Kurosawa’s intention as well considering his character and the gun that he is symbolised by, but I can’t help but feel uncomfortable (in a bad way) by every scene that he is in.

    I must stress, though, that I have nothing against Nakadai as an actor. His performance in Ran is perhaps my favourite by anyone in any movie. He is great elsewhere as well. But what he does in Yojimbo just seems so… out of place?

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    Jeremy

    I agree Vili, Nakadai’s character does seem out of place. It’s something I been trying to figure out myself.

    I think it’s a mean of separating Unosuke from the typical gang member, much like what is done with Sanjuro (The Sanjuro in Yojimbo).

    Where the separation from the typical gang member for Sanjuro is a means to help the audience connect with him. The separation for Unosuke is a means to avoid a connection, while not labeling him as a fake.

    As fake I mean how the gang members in the movie are faking their skill, by the way they dress and act in a attempt to appear mean. Why Unosuke and Yojimbo are very approachable and dont appear mean, but are actually the ones that are dangerous.

    I will be exploring this in my write up, I should have out by Sunday. I hope you’ll give your take, as I will provide some better details and examples.

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    Vili Maunula

    I’m looking forward to that, Jeremy!

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    cocoskyavitch

    Vili,

    I am trying hard to see what you see in Nakadai’s character/performance in Yojimbo, and the source of your objection. You don’t like it for real?

    Nakadai comes in, with the wind, with that scarf and the gun coming up from his kimono-a sexual threat-and, it’s easy to believe that Kurosawa told Nakadai to act “like a snake”-to Mifune’s “lion”.

    And, later, Nakadai’s kimono whipping aside to reveal his bared leg (notice the other guys generally wear leggings of some sort…Mifune does, but Nakadai’s shapely, hairless, bare leg…it reminds me of the leg of “cupid” in “Venus, Cupid, Folly and Time” in that Bronzino painting in the National Gallery in London…exceptionally NAKED) again, a kind of sexuality that’s snaky, sinuous. Nakadai is handsome, too. Handsome in a youthful, lawless, nihilistic way. Kurosawa said he was sick of Yakuza. I think he meant it, and Nakadai is Yakuza that Kurosawa didn’t allow himself to fall in love with (unlike Mifune in Drunken Angel).

    I also think the conventional reading of Mifune’s character Sanjuro is boring- reading it as a primarily mercenary or nihilist character. I say baloney.

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    Vili Maunula

    Perhaps it is that Nakadai is too beautiful, his garments too fancy for the town. He is too clever, too, instantly knowing what Mifune is planning. And that smile, for some reason, annoys me as well.

    I just feel uncomfortable with him (or his character) in the movie, which may well be exactly what Kurrosawa intended, but I feel so uncomfortable with him that it actually bothers me and distances me from the film, rather than adding something to it.

    It’s actually quite strange. I just rewatched the movie yesterday, and there he was again. Annoying me. Or at least making me uncomfortable.

    In any case, I totally agree with you about Mifune’s character. I’ve been meaning to post on the whole “anti-hero” issue in this film, but paid work gets on the way of doing things that I would really like to do.

    Maybe I’ll stay up tonight and finish the two or three write-ups I’ve been meaning to post ever since the beginning of this month.

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    cocoskyavitch

    It will be interesting to hear you dissect your feelings, Vili. I agree that Nakadai is repellent…I have to believe that Kurosawa had more control over his attitude toward the “bad guys”.

    but, he’s got an Elvis thing going on, too. Also the crazy-eyes thing. And the smile. And that leg. And the kimono skinny arm gun thing. He’s got all these “tells”, too.

    But, once you’ve sorted out your discomfort, you’ll let us know. Looking forward to it!

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    Jon Hooper

    Interesting thoughts, Vili. Personally I don’t feel in any way distanced by Nakadai in this film – he plays the part of a repellent character well and that’s it for me. I think I see what you’re getting at, but I can’t think of a single example of finding a film spoiled (even somewhat) by an actor I otherwise admire unless they are miscast. I don’t think Nakadai is miscast in this and of course that isn’t what you are suggesting. Are you able to make a distinction between the actor and the character when it comes to putting your finger on what annoys you?

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    Vili Maunula

    Are you able to make a distinction between the actor and the character when it comes to putting your finger on what annoys you?

    That is a good question. I think that it’s the character, for I don’t really have anything against Nakadai as an actor. Or at least he does a very fine job in annoying me. 😆

    It’s a strange thing, though. I wonder if it has anything to do with the fact that Yojimbo was one of the first Kurosawa films I ever saw, and I was really quite young back then (12, I think?), and was most probably really pushing for Sanjuro to beat up everyone.

    Maybe Nakadai’s character seemed like a difficult obstacle for me then (as I probably associated myself very strongly with Mifune’s character), and I therefore developed a deep dislike towards the gun-slinger. I don’t know.

    Perhaps I should seek help, find a Freudian to plunge deep into my subconscious and pull out the fact that, ultimately, it all has to do with my latent sexual depression? A gun is, after all, a very phallic symbol…

    Hm. Maybe it’s actually better that I hold off finishing those write-ups for yet another evening. Who knows where I might end up with them, considering that today my mind seems to travel somewhat too freely…

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    Jon Hooper

    I think that it’s the character, for I don’t really have anything against Nakadai as an actor.

    I was wondering if it was the way Nakadai played this particular role, for you, rather than the character as written? Some of the best villains are attractive, even charming, but as cocoskyavitch said Nakadai is repellent despite his glamour and good looks. Does he lack something, perhaps, that a great villain portrayal needs? He does a good job of making us dislike him, but should he have added a little more charm into the mix? What do you make, I wonder, of his potrayal of the villain in Sanjuro?

    Or the Freudian explanation might be best after all. Too much pistol waving and slithering about with his arms folded inside his gown?

    I have the BFI Yojimbo and it’s interesting that the inlay has three screen shots of Nakadai and only one of Mifune.

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    cocoskyavitch

    Vili, you are really making me laugh, your honesty is so refreshing. The confessional tone is a gift! It is so awesome that you are sorting things through in real time in this forum. We can tell you are super-smart and sharp as a tack.

    I dare say that having conflicted feelings about something or a character in a film is a good part of my enjoyment of a film of any complexity. Learning to articulate understanding…is something this forum allows us to do, and that’s really cool. I feel as if I am learning a lot about how others see things that are very meaningful to me. Seeing things through another’s mind and heart is really interesting.

    And, Nakadai is creepy and snaky and there is something just short of obscene about his exposed shoulder-arm-gun and sinuous leg. Gun/sex/compensatory mechanism…blah blah blah, but it’s there. Also, I guess the gun is the poison tooth of the snake. Equating sex with death is not a big Kurosawa motif. Mifune, offered the dancing girls to “play” with looks like a contemporary guy offered a choice of STDs. Very funny reaction when they first appear.

    It must be a very Western thing to see snakes as creepy and get a whole rush of iconography with “original sin” and all that-Naga in India-the protector of Buddha-Mifune was Christian, right? Hey, remember Shimura in Scandaldrunkenly yelling “Merry Chritmas Every Butty!” And Mifune with the Christmas tree on his motorcycle? So crazy.

    Sorry for the stream-of-consciousness ramble. You’re right, though, Nakadai is creepy. Mr. Hopper’s got it…Nakadai is short of sympathetic. I don’t like him, either, but I enjoy watching him.

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    cocoskyavitch

    Some folks love to compare Yojimbo and its remakes. Here’s a site that is clever (and non-didactic) about this, courtesy of the BBC:

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/dna/h2g2/alabaster/A1132291

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    Vili Maunula

    Jon Hooper: I was wondering if it was the way Nakadai played this particular role, for you, rather than the character as written? Some of the best villains are attractive, even charming, but as cocoskyavitch said Nakadai is repellent despite his glamour and good looks. Does he lack something, perhaps, that a great villain portrayal needs? He does a good job of making us dislike him, but should he have added a little more charm into the mix? What do you make, I wonder, of his potrayal of the villain in Sanjuro?

    I actually really like him in Sanjuro. Maybe it is that there, I can figure him out as he is a more typical character, and think of him existing also outside of the scenes that he is in. In Yojimbo, meanwhile, he seems too strange and too out-of-place. And since we are given absolutely no background to his story, he just ends up being very unattached to the whole story.

    In a way, he is the only character in the whole movie who is not a caricature (and this more or less includes Sanjuro as well). Yet, he is not a so-called “round” character, either, since we know nothing of him. Somehow he therefore ends up not really being a character at all, but simply an obstacle, a plot device. An oddity.

    Or, alternatively/additionally it might even be something as simple as his clothing. Those stripes actually make me dizzy. I can’t focus on them, and they actually create a very strange visual effect. It might, of course, be just my eyes and my TV. Nevertheless, a curious choice from the clothing department (or whatever you call them).

    cocoskyavitch: Mifune, offered the dancing girls to “play” with looks like a contemporary guy offered a choice of STDs.

    I actually think that Mifune’s response to the wife’s offer of the girls — “It’s dangerous around here” — is indeed a direct suggestion of this.

    And is it just me or has Kurosawa here got the make-up department to work really hard to make all of these girls strangely unattractive, although not downright ugly?

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    Jeremy

    Nakadai,plays a active confident character which can be a bit odd, when Mifune plays a passive confidence. The biggest issue is the lack of time we spend with Unosuke. We dont see him much, but every time he is has a brighter showing.

    Unosuke walks around like he has a spot light on him, but since his character doesnt get develop it becomes annoying. It would be like in a play having the main stage light, be on a tree. Our focus is giving into something that doesnt need focus.We are trying to find why this spotlight is shining on this object, but we can never understand.

    Unosuke is a unknown to Sanjuro, the one thing he cant figure out. Unosuke represents doubt and unsureness to Sanjuro, something he is not used to. Unosuke can not be shaken, and when Sanjuro trys to understand him, he can not, as there is nothing to understand.

    Unosuke is completely legitimized by his gun, he is nothing more, as he even mentions upon his death.

    None of this makes sense I’m sure, I just write. 😮

    .

    Yes, the girls are not attractive, but if you getting slammed by Inokichi every night, you too wouldnt look your best. 😆

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    cocoskyavitch

    Beauty and the Beasts:

    One of the dancing girls is pretty…the one putting her finger to her chin and giving us (camera) a sidelong glance. The rest are shockingly unattractive-particularly the musicians. But, I LOVE the music, the way it starts out and the drums come in and sure enough we see the musician drumming, (she always makes me laugh-her look is both focussed on her druming and dull at the same time-so much in that one look!) and their little dance… bare feet stomping around the too-small room.

    And, since we’re discussing attractiveness, I would like to just mention that Mifune’s physical attributes for this viewer reach an apogee when he faces off against Nakadai in the final battle/massacre. Iconic confidence, sultry walk (dude! He’s catlike in his movements! A lion, indeed.). The excitement of the slow, rolling-hip walk that explodes into movement.

    I first saw Mifune some years ago in the Musashi Miyamoto trilogy-(at least, that’s how I remember first seeing him, that may be wrong) and, confronted with his wildness in the first film, couldn’t decide if he was a loud and annoying monkey or hot. I’ve ricocheted back and forth with that over the years, finally committing to ultimate hotness. It’s kinda like a marriage. You decide to love, in the end. Not just emotion, a commitment.

    But even the most devoted wife will tell you her husband’s flaws if you get a couple of margaritas in her. I think Mifune’s face changes dramatically even in Yojimbo-there is a look he gives of utter bewilderment when the freed mother, father and child bow to him-it only lasts a second, but Mifune looks twenty years older, heavier, and uncertain. There are moments, too, when I think, “what did he drink last night?” when his face is somewhat bloated. There are also times when he is so incredibly confident and masculine, that he’s like a ridiculous ultimate hearthrob.

    In Yojimbo, I love him first when I see his back and the mountain beyond. It’s very intimate, coming up behind him like that. While I am enjoying his character, I’m also aware of the buckram-cap topnot wig he is wearing (there are some funny photos of actors walking around with these hairy half-coconuts in their hands-I can only imaginehow uncomfortable they were to wear and hot) and that he liked to get drunk and drive his MG around at night (Teruyo Nogami tells us so, and there are pics of Mifune dressed as Sanjuro taking a drive around the set-I use one as a screensaver on my computer screen-I love the anachronistic beauty of that image). So the layers of pleasure are like transparent tissues. There is also that sense of passing time-after all, this is all so long ago! So a mono-no-aware like feeling infuses one’s awareness-another tissue layer through which you feel beauty and pleasure.

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    Vili Maunula

    Jeremy: Unosuke walks around like he has a spot light on him, but since his character doesnt get develop it becomes annoying. It would be like in a play having the main stage light, be on a tree. Our focus is giving into something that doesnt need focus.We are trying to find why this spotlight is shining on this object, but we can never understand.

    Jeremy, I think you may well have hit the nail on the head here. He is, indeed, under a spotlight, yet we are never quite sure why. Or well, at least I’m not. Thanks for this piece of enlightenment!

    Coco: And, since we’re discussing attractiveness, I would like to just mention that Mifune’s physical attributes for this viewer reach an apogee when he faces off against Nakadai in the final battle/massacre.

    My girlfriend actually just translated and dubbed Yojimbo about a month ago (she works for a small art film club as I may have mentioned), and she said that while dubbing the film she sometimes had problems concentrating on the dialogue as she found herself staring at Mifune. 😛

    I didn’t go to the showing (I usually do when they have Kurosawa, just to see how many people turn up and what the reactions are), but apparently only a handful of people showed up. Such a shame, really. I’ve been trying to get the film club to show some early Kurosawa (in addition to Stray Dog and Rashomon) but the owner tells me that Kurosawa doesn’t really bring in the crowds any more, and he needs to make a living after all. This is actually a bit strange as I remember that only seven or eight years ago the Kurosawa screenings still brought in quite a crowd.

    But let’s see what happens in 2010. Maybe I’ll talk the owner into booking time for a Kurosawa marathon and will host that myself, who knows. If it happens, you are all invited to be the “expert panel”. 😉

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    cocoskyavitch

    Vili, since you’ve mentioned your home life, is your girlfriend Japanese? If so, your antiquarian sensibility in film must be kinda quirky to her, no? DVD Town’s review of High and Lowsums up the uncoolness of Kurosawa. He’s too popular. You have to like Ozu to be cool, or better yet-Kobayashi or Mizoguchi or Naruse. Hey, don’t you cringe when people tell you their favorite Kurosawa film is “Dreams”? You think, “They haven’t seen much”… And, don’t you wonder, when people first tell you they like Kurosawa, if they just like samurai films in general? Then, finally, don’t you think it is interesting that you are only going to be able to like that which is a commodity available for purchase/consumption? Sorry to be sour.

    But, I think she and I have the same taste in men on film. I don’t think you can overestimate the incredible appeal of Mifune in calculating Kurosawa’s success. To tell the truth, it is kinda heartbreaking to think about it-that, after Red Beardboth Mifune and Kurosawa have some tough going.

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    Jeremy

    To jump into the conversation if you dont mind.

    Kurosawa too popular to be cool, is typical film snobbery. To be a “real” film fan, you have to only like the unknowns, is stupid notion. Simply people dont want other people to like what they like, because it reduces their ego, of knowing something no one else does.

    I think I mention this elsewhere, where I sort of hate, knowing other people know about Kurosawa as much as me. To save me though, I can admit this and not let if effect my enjoyment of something that is more mainstream.

    I know the unknowns, and although many are great, they may be unknown simply because they are not all that great. Certainly there are some horrible people that are well known, but one shouldn’t group every well known, as a overrated.

    I do admit, I absolutely hate when someone says they are a fan of Kurosawa, and can only mention a samurai film, mostly Sanjuro.

    I want to punch them. 🙂

    Ha-maybe his is too popular, I would prefer if some random person couldn’t name him, would make me feel smarter.

    I can barely read the subtitles when Mifune is on screen, much less try to comprehend and translate.

    I’ll admit-I’m in love with Mifune. Bless his zombie bones.

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    Vili Maunula

    My better half is actually Hungarian — I live where I do mainly because of her.

    I don’t actually think that I want to punch anyone for liking Kurosawa’s samurai films and being totally oblivious to anything else he directed. Neither do I have anything particular against those who consider Dreams his best film.

    The former group of people goes on to show something that I personally really appreciate about Kurosawa, the fact that his films are nearly always entertainment first and socio-philosophical enquiries second (while also being technically brilliant). As he so often insisted, a good film must be entertaining or it will not be of interest to anyone — there are other mediums that work better for pure intellectual contemplation.

    As for the second group of people, I think Dreams is an excellent, thought-provoking film, so I don’t see the problem there. There was actually a time when I considered it my favourite.

    But Kurosawa is, indeed, in some ways “too popular” for many educated film lovers. I think that this is partly because of the role his works played during the early development of film studies as an academic subject in the west. This is partly thanks to Richie, and partly because of Kurosawa’s accessibility due to his use of western techniques and film grammar. Because of this early interest, there is perhaps now a notion that he has already been studied, and that there is very little new to say about him. Which, as we have already discovered in the past couple of months, is of course utter nonsense.

    The fact that Kurosawa’s films can be so entertaining probably also works as a barrier to those looking for serious cinema. Yet, unlike what for example many fans of Japanese new wave cinema (many of whom are quite critical of Kurosawa) would like you to believe, Kurosawa’s works — and especially the immediate post-war films — are quite intimately tied to the social, political and economical situation in contemporary (post-war) Japan, therefore introducing another possible barrier for someone wanting to study his movies — you need to know something about the time those films were made to begin to see more than just the entertainment.

    So, don’t punch the “casual fans” or those who don’t appreciate Kurosawa, instead tell them to head to akirakurosawa.info! We’ll sort them out. 😉

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    cocoskyavitch

    Kurosawa’s popularity, keeping a lover safe, secret and your own, and casual encounters of the Kurosawa kind.

    So, Jeremy, I get you wanting to punch people out. That jealousy thing is often a part of having a lover, at least in my experience. If you have a relationship with Kurosawa and his work-well, it could come to blows if someone looks at your beloved cross-eyed! I have felt like that about certain artists!

    But, strangely, I actually don’t really care to keep my Kurosawa-fan love secret and my own-at least not anymore. I’ve gone from wanting to write the definitive book on the artistry of Kurosawa (from a painter’s perspective-the ultimate is to stake your territority by writing the definitive perspective, right?) to finding joy (and, oddly, a somewhat ego-less joy) in just hearing what other people have to say about his work. It would be really different if the tone of this forum produced trolls, but Vili keeps things in good shape-he’s a perfect host, and the things being discussed are meaningful to me. I had hoped for a forum like this four years ago when I first went nuts for Japanese post-war cinema. It just didn’t exist back then. Gotta love the blogoshpere…bringing folks together like this.

    I still cringe a bit when people list “Dreams” as their fave Kurosawa. This has to do with marketing and availability, and is not a comment on the quality of the film. It just tells me that their local video hut had “Dreams” on the shelf. It tells me about marketing, the age of those who saw it in theatrical release and recommended it to their children, and stuff like that, nothing about the film itself. All of this is changing dramatically, of course, with the re-release of Kurosawa films, and Netflix and such. Jeremy, if I have any regrets or pangs it’s that my hard-won viewing of all of Kurosawa’s films is like all those folks who died of infection before the invention of antibiotics. All for nothing-just bad timing. It’s way easier to get your hands on Kurosawa now than just four years ago. (Raises fist in air and says, “Why, in my day we had to walk twenty miles to school one way without shoes…”)

    Ah, so Vili, your girlfriend was translating Kurosawa into Hungarian, then. The picture begins to emerge. Thanks for clarifying. Not that it is any of my business, but, like I say, I’ve been to Hungary, so I picture myself in front of the National Gallery sitting on the steps talking to a friend, and then, when I am gone, picture you and some shadowy “her” there, too, and she has just finished translating a Kurosawa film that is going to be a part of the film series. (This is how my imagination works/fabricates).

    Jeremy said:

    I can barely read the subtitles when Mifune is on screen, much less try to comprehend and translate.

    I’ll admit-I’m in love with Mifune. Bless his zombie bones.

    Amen. I cried my eyes out reading Prince’s dual bio and learning about Mifune in his last years. I felt guilty for not knowing about him and taking care of him or something…weirdly responsible…

    I am always finding new things to love about him…did you notice his beautiful hands in the beating-up scene in Yojimbo? Look at them against the prison door and note the fine, long, strong articulate fingers and broad, powerful, but elegant width of the palm. His hands are incredibly lovely-and masculine-just like Mifune. I had a crush on a Columbian guy, once, who affected me like that-you know-all the little excellences and beauties and private pleasures. I would be willing to punch somebody out over Mifune! Bless his “zombie bones”.

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    Vili Maunula

    You make an interesting point about the popularity = availability of Dreams, Coco. I had never quite considered it before, but you are right, it is more marketed than are most of Kurosawa’s other works. The film has actually even been among the launch titles for a few video downloading services.

    I also remember that thirteen or so years ago, Dreams and Ran were the only Kurosawa films available at my local video rental in Finland. I had managed to tape about a dozen more off a Kurosawa marathon on the TV, but ultimately I could only quench my thirst for the complete works of Kurosawa by relocating myself to Japan for a year. (The Japanese never were all that impressed when I told them that my number one reason for choosing their country for my school exchange year (second on my list was Chile) was Kurosawa, and not kendo, flower arrangements or tea ceremony — all of which I studied as well, of course.)

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    cocoskyavitch

    It’s fascinating to me that you chose Japan as your study abroad destination due to your interest in Kurosawa.

    The demographics in the U.S. would probably skew toward interest in Manga and Anime as the #1 reason for interest in Japanese culture and Japan.

    Usually it starts with interest in gaming and Manga and Anime, then language. Our university has a very fine Japanese language program, and once students begin to study the language, they get hooked. We have a consortium agreement, so there is a permanent center for Japanese Language and Culture in Hikone, and we send a fair number of students there each semester.

    In my experience of young people learning about and falling in love with Japan, you are unique in your interest in Kurosawa as motivation to visit Japan. In fact, I dare say that Ozu’s grave is visited more often than Kurosawa’s. I remember being told by a colleague that Kurosawa was allright but “Ozu”…(eyes all misty and voice trailing off to a whisper)…!

    In academic circles, anyway, Kurosawa is not that cool. Ozu is cooler, more ethereal, more mono-no-aware-ish. So, I got my first film, Tokyo Story. Then, a few more. Then, the Eclipse series by Criterion allowed me to get a few at a low price. Slowly, one builds a relationship with the work. At this point, I really, truly have come to love Ozu. The more I see the more I love Ozu.

    But, Ozu lovers stay in one camp and Kurosawa lovers have this camp (this really is the main camp). I don’t know why that is. Fashion is so silly.

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    Jeremy

    Kurosawa has a grave?

    I thought he was cremated and tossed about in Tokyo. I know some people still have a remembrance marker in a grave yard, but I wasnt aware Kurosawa did.

    From an academic standpoint, I can see the higher admiration to Ozu. His film do require some rather deep knowledge of traditional Japanese customs, to understand the vast non-verbal story. That being something that is even hard for native Japanese to see.

    While Kurosawa allows just anyone to walk in. I would say Ozu had very specific limitations in story telling and directing, a weakness really. Kurosawa was not effect by this, and still offer arguably equally deep stories, while not requiring the audience to be traditional Japanese.

    Ozu’s complexity did not leave movies without their problems. At times the story is simply boring, character rarely connect, the audience is rarely part of the film. This is something Kurosawa makes large attempts to avoid.

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    cocoskyavitch

    Yes, Jeremy, Kurosawa has a memorial/grave. What do you call it when there is only a memorial no body-like the one for Dante in Florence ‘cuz they kicked his butt out of town and he is actually buried in Ravenna, but Florence wishes they could have him back, now, so there is…a cenotaph? Yeah, cenotaph. So I duno if it is a grave or cenotaph only.

    I have seen friends on my OZU blog site post photos from their visits to Ozu’s grave, and they even give directions, with photographs of the signs to look for, so it appears that people do make the pilgrimage. I think a fair number of people who like Ozu really really like him.

    Here’s all I could find on Kurosawa’s grave/cenotaph:

    http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=4608

    Finally, I guess I really have come to love some things about Ozu. At first, I thought he was “awright…” but then, I think it was Floating Weeds that I saw on the big screen at the center for Japanese Language and Culture (filmed by Miyagawa…weird that “Ugetsu, Rashomon, Floating Weeds and Yojimbo are all fave films of mine and all filmed by Miyagawa) that really really just somehow fascinated me. I just loved the music, which reminded me of Nino Rota’s in the Fellini films I love, and the characters themselves were so interesting. Then, I saw the silent film “Good Morning“-and it clinched the deal! That frog kid, man! I was completely head-over-heels with the intensity done in a way totally different from Kurosawa.

    I find that loving Ozu has not at all impacted my love, appreciation and gratitude toward Kurosawa one whit. Oddly, I am not even interested in comparing the two film makers, and I am adamantly opposed to having to choose between them. I love coffee and I love red wine. Do I have to get rid of one? That would suck!

    Oh, and, finally, did I mention that it really does bug me when people are snobby about their “taste”? When people get all holier-than-thou about Ozu, I feel slightly bad for them, because they probably haven’t looked very carefully at Kurosawa, so how can they know how cool he is? Obviously, the more you know about Kurosawa-the more you will admire and respect and love his work if you have any sense or sensibilities.

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    Vili Maunula

    I really love Ozu as well, although like Jeremy points out he is not really for all moods and moments. Ozu was actually my second discovery in Japanese movies after Kurosawa, Nagisa Oshima being the third. Those three still form the “Japanese trinity” in my mind, even if they are very different from each another and there are certainly many other brilliant directors in the history of Japanese cinema. I still need to get more familiar with many of them, especially Mizoguchi.

    It is such a pity that there will probably never be another Oshima movie. I thought that Gohatto, his last film, was maybe his best.

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    Jon Hooper

    I’ve only seen one Ozu movie, and that’s the remake(?) of Good Morning, which I thought was good but not quite good enough to make me rush out and buy more of his works. Mizoguchi, on the other hand, really did impress.

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    cocoskyavitch

    Other Pleasures:

    Vili and Jon,

    Although I don’t do a triumvirate for Japanese cinema, ( I do have one for Italian High Renaissance art, and for French Impressionism) there’s special admiration for Ozu, Mizoguchi, Kurosawa, Kobayashi and Ichikawa, and I’ve seen all of Kurosawa, and a healthy sampling of the rest. I need to learn more about Naruse, particularly, and Oshima. I’ve seen the latter’s Realm of the Senses many times. The Inagaki I’ve seen is schlocky, but I still think a lot of his stuff is fun. And, that’s the limit of my knowledge. Just a handful of filmmakers. Again, it’s partly a market aesthetic-just the vagaries of fate, but, also, the choices of our predecessors determining in many cases what is available to us.

    I’m obsessed wtih Mizoguchi,though! He did a war-interrupted telling of Chushingura/47 Ronin in two parts, (fascinating to watch and compare to Inagaki’s version) but the one that whipsawed its way into my brain/heart/entrails was Ugetsu which, if you’ve not seen, is magnificent and haunting (literally) and has the funk of the Irish/Greek/Japanese Lefcadio Hearn thing goin’ on. I saw it on VHS maybe fifteen years ago, then it was gone until Critereion’s recent extravagant re-mastering and fancy-schmancy packaging (I’m not making fun…it is lovely!). Seeing that film after searching for it for fifteen years was a huge event!Sansho the Bailiff is lovely and sad, and really a very beautiful fim (Miyagawa) and I am waiting for absolute calm to view Life of Oharu, ‘cuz I think I’m gonna need some time to recapture my equilibrium. Mizoguchi’s on my list of “can’t wait to see more…”

    The remake of I Was Born, But is called…Good Morning. But, I misspoke, and meant to point to I Was Born, But… and not the other. The truth is, it isn’t a remake at all. The earlier, silent film I Was Born, But is DEVASTATING and hilarious, and Good Morning is a much quieter, smaller amusement with a very different social issue and a very different dynamic. Sorry for making things confusing, Jon. Ozu takes some time to make his way under your skin. He’s more like Ikibana than kendo. The strange thing for me was that it was the silent film “I Was Born But…” which is, purportedly a comedy (and it is funny) and the kids look like something from an “Our Gang” comedy-they even have a dog that reminds me of “Petey”! That’s the one that clinched the deal. People tell you Ozu is great, so, if you are like me you might have your doubts, and need to experience it yourself to believe. It’s clear to any viewer that something like Tokyo Story is masterful and sure-handed. I’m not sure which film will do it for you, but once Ozu gets you giggling, breaks you down-shocks you-scandalizes you-pains you-makes you wonder about life-once he gets you thinking about who you are as a human being-well, then it all changes. I dare say that Ozu’s appeal is his ability to be relevant to every human being who feels some concern for how he/she is doing as a human being.

    I’ve looked hard at Ozu: Tokyo Story, Late Spring, Early Summer, Tokyo Twilight, A Story of Floating Weeds, Tokyo Chorus and Floating Weeds…I am watching Passing Fancy tonight. Of the films listed above, not one stinker.

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